For A Reader-Some Martian Information From A Layman

Solar radiation: We live within the envelope of Earth’s electro-magnetic dynamo, protected from the life-destroying short-wave radiation our star is constantly spewing.  Over time (billions of years) this has helped create a relatively stable atmosphere and biosphere; stable enough for the life we know on Earth.

Despite this stability, of course, we know the star-energy we eventually consume as food and water to be scarce as such conditions are coded at the cellular level (and since we’re being depressively realistic, there’s vulcanism, earthquakes, cold, heat, other people, parasites and viruses to contend with). Such facts define us as does the occasional catastrophic event and the eventual catastrophe awaiting each of us.  There’s love, friendship, knowledge, music, hope, beauty and a whole world to explore.

Okay, enough of that for now.

Zero or altered gravity:  On the surface of Earth, we live x units away from a mass ball at the bottom of a gravity well.  In space, we wouldn’t feel this force at all, and on Mars we would feel it about 40%.  What if blood vessels contract/expand or slowly atrophy in zero Gs for reasons yet unknown?  What if this dims your vision slowly, over time, and impairs cognitive functioning, especially during the reproductive process, pregnancy or early childhood?  Wouldn’t you like to know this before it starts happening to you on the six-months-plus journey to Mars?

Once we know about such problems, we can figure out some solutions.

If there is life on Mars (a possibility, still, as of 2019), it’s probably microbial, living on an energy source beneath the surface.  Up top, all that solar radiation has created a toxic layer of perchorates, oxidized, rusted dust and rocks, apparently hostile to life as we know it.

Imagine a place colder than Antarctica, drier than the driest desert, with so little atmosphere the atmosphere’s barely there.  The EM dynamo and envelope petered out long ago.  You look around and see a barren landscape, familiar yet strange; alien.

Imagine, one morning, stepping from a rover on an exploratory mission, feeling a deep  nervous tension and excitement.  You focus in on the scripted tasks and procedures the next few minutes require.

You know that if your suit becomes compromised, your blood would alternately freeze/boil and you’d die almost instantly.  You know some little, unplanned problem can become a big problem.  Any sort of help/supply lines would be pretty much impossible, at least six months but at least a year in coming, and probably not coming at all.

Yet, here you are:

—————————

As posted: It looks like Gale Crater has its advantages.

Research papers here. A summary of some of what’s been found so far:

‘Research suggests habitable conditions in the Yellowknife Bay area may have persisted for millions to tens of millions of years. During that time rivers and lakes probably appeared and disappeared. Even when the surface was dry, the subsurface likely was wet, as indicated by mineral veins deposited by underground water into fractures in the rock. The thickness of observed and inferred tiers of rock layers provides the basis for estimating long duration, and the discovery of a mineral energy source for underground microbes favors habitability throughout.’

You can also watch a 12/05/13 press briefing from JPL discussing those papers above.  These rocks are much newer than the older wet period theorized.

They’re more focused on the search for organic carbon, now, within the environments they’ve discovered.

Via The Mars Science Laboratory At NASA: ”Mount Sharp’ On Mars Links Geology’s Past And Future’Via Youtube: ‘The Challenges Of Getting To Mars: Selecting A Landing Site

NASA Via Youtube: December 21st, 2012 Mars Curiosity Rover Report

NASA Via Youtube: ‘The Martians: Launching Curiosity To Mars’NASA Via Youtube: ‘Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity Rover) Mission Animation

Why was Mt. Sharp chosen for the Curiosity Rover landing site, and what about those rounded stones that it photographed, indicative of long ago ankle to hip-deep water?  If the Martian surface is likely so full of perchlorates and life-hostile, irradiated soil, what are the chances of pockets of microbial life below ground?

The discussion later moves to Venus, Jovian moon Io, and the Chinese lander on the dark side of the moon in the final minutes:

Event Horizon discussion with Emily Lakdawalla.

Imagine sub-freezing temperatures and free radicals bombarding the near atmosphere-less Martian surface (oxidized and rusted red, barren), but below the Martian surface lurk big blocks of briny ice; ice with freezing cold, incredibly salty water around them and maybe just enough O2 to support some microbes.

Worth thinking about.

What are you doing with your imagination?

‘Due to the scarcity of O2 in the modern Martian atmosphere, Mars has been assumed to be incapable of producing environments with sufficiently large concentrations of O2 to support aerobic respiration. Here, we present a thermodynamic framework for the solubility of O2 in brines under Martian near-surface conditions. We find that modern Mars can support liquid environments with dissolved O2 values ranging from ~2.5 × 10−6 mol m−3 to 2 mol m−3 across the planet, with particularly high concentrations in polar regions because of lower temperatures at higher latitudes promoting O2 entry into brines’

 

For Today, I Suppose This Will Do-Two Quotes From Roger Scruton

‘The same idea occurs in Schopenhauer, for whom the truth of the world is Will, which cannot be represented in concepts.  Schopenhauer devoted roughly 500,000 words to this thing that no words can capture…’

‘…I too am tempted to eff the ineffable.  like my philosophical predecessors, I want to describe that world beyond the window, even though I know that it cannot be described but only revealed.  I am not alone in thinking that world to be real and important.  But there are many who dismiss it as unscientific cast of mind are disagreeable to me.  Their nerdish conviction that facts alone can signify, and that the ‘transcendental’ and the eternal are nothing but words, mark them out as incomplete. There is an aspect of the human condition that is denied to them. ‘

Scruton, Roger. Effing The IneffableConfessions Of A Heretic. Notting Hill Editions Ltd, 2016. Print. (Pgs 87 & 88).

Personally, I’m not sure that all naturalists and people in the sciences I’ve known wish to reduce the world to strictly mathematical laws, nor consign all domains of human endeavor to ‘non-science.’

Some people, I suspect, have the onboard wiring and have pursued learning which make them profoundly interested in order, patterns, and logic. Some people are just really smart and dedicate themselves to a particular problem or two, maybe possessing the genius and courage, even, to define a new problem after years of hard work of mastering a field, leading to genuine new knowledge.

I am grateful for the Mars Curiosity Rover, and the hundreds of engineers that worked for much of their professional lives to land this thing on Mars.  It’s still yielding valuable data.

Now, there’s arrogance, hubris and false pride to be in all of us, to be sure, and many sharp thinkers are no exception (in some cases the bigger the brain (or ego), the bigger the fool).  I don’t find foolish and/or earnest conviction in any short supply on this Earth.

To be fair, I don’t think this proves, nor does Scruton even attempt to prove, that the ineffable, therefore, exists (or if the ineffable does exist, as it reveals itself to us, that it requires saying or expression through us, nor through Handel or Bach or post-Kantian German thinking).

Such expression surely offers me consolation, though, for I take refuge in works of art.  I am profoundly grateful to walk at evening and listen to a few minutes of music:

I am profoundly grateful that I may share in someone else’s pain, suffering and disconsolation, across centuries, transmuted into an act of beauty and wonder, through a centuries-developed form and method (an orchestra is rather a thing of technical achievement, too, just as is a store-bought guitar or a Korg).

Sure, there’s much epistemological ignorance amongst some in the sciences and, frankly, within all of us.

Come to think of it, I think most of us manage one or a few things well, and mess up at least a few areas of our lives without even trying.  It’s also very, very tempting to talk about that which we know very little (this blog, for instance), as though something is known.

This may make me no more than a 2nd or 3rd rate idea man, taking, essentially, more than has been given.

For today, I suppose this will do.

Repost-Roger Scruton At The WSJ: ‘Memo To Hawking: There’s Still Room For God’

Also On This Site:  Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To JudgmentFrom YouTube: Roger Scruton On Religious Freedom, Islam & Atheism

Via The University Of British Colombia: Kant-Summary Of Essential PointsFrom Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On Youtube: Geoffrey Warnock On KantSunday Quotation: From Jonathan Bennett On Kant

From The Times Higher Education: Simon Blackburn On The The Atheist/Believer DebateFrom Bloggingheads: Adam Frank And Eliezer Yudkowsky

 

Trying To Club Your Club To Death, Fictional British Towns & Mars-Some Links

Imagine trying to ban all the Moose Lodges, Elks’ Clubs, Little Leagues, and Girl Scout Troops across the nation in the name of fairness (if these clubs and civil associations can’t be ‘equal’ according to the loudest voices demanding ‘equality’, then nobody’s going to have any clubs).

Of course, many of the same individuals and orgs seeking to influence everyone’s behavior at Harvard are also seeking to do so through the Federal Government.

Some people seem locked in [a] kind of slavish ideological dependency on the institutions they seek to either control or destroy.

From FIRE.org: ‘Harvard’s Steven Pinker on proposal to ban social clubs: ‘This is a terrible recommendation

‘Members of the Harvard University community are reacting to news yesterday that a faculty committee recommends the Ivy League institution eliminate all exclusive social clubs. The ban would effectively shutter any Harvard-connected off-campus clubs, including all fraternities and sororities, by the year 2022 — despite Harvard’s continued promises of unfettered freedom of association for its students.’


Via kottke.org: ‘Fictional Names For British Towns Generated By A Neural Net

Two miles from Brumlington, as the crow flies, deep in the moor past Firley Binch, lieth Fuckley….

I recommend Simon’s blog for photos and text of the English Countryside.

Mick Hartley’s blog is pretty good, too.


Five years on Mars can be boiled down to 1 1/2 hours of discussion.  The data is telling a story, so how is that story being told?:

Did Mars harbor life?

Could it have harbored life?

What does this new data mean for Earth and our story?

From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’

A very Harvard affair: The Spelke/Pinker debate-The Science Of Gender And Science

Repost-Revisting Larry Summers: What Did He Say Again?

Harvey Mansfield At The City Journal: ‘Principles That Don’t Change’

Via Youtube: ‘Curiosity’s First Year On Mars’

From IBTimes Via Youtube: ‘NASA Mars Rover Finds Evidence Of Lake’

—————————

It looks like Gale Crater has its advantages.

Research papers here. A summary of some of what’s been found so far:

‘Research suggests habitable conditions in the Yellowknife Bay area may have persisted for millions to tens of millions of years. During that time rivers and lakes probably appeared and disappeared. Even when the surface was dry, the subsurface likely was wet, as indicated by mineral veins deposited by underground water into fractures in the rock. The thickness of observed and inferred tiers of rock layers provides the basis for estimating long duration, and the discovery of a mineral energy source for underground microbes favors habitability throughout.’

You can also watch a 12/05/13 press briefing from JPL discussing those papers above.  These rocks are much newer than the older wet period theorized.

They’re more focused on the search for organic carbon, now, within the environments they’ve discovered.

Via The Mars Science Laboratory At NASA: ”Mount Sharp’ On Mars Links Geology’s Past And Future’Via Youtube: ‘The Challenges Of Getting To Mars: Selecting A Landing Site

NASA Via Youtube: December 21st, 2012 Mars Curiosity Rover Report

NASA Via Youtube: ‘The Martians: Launching Curiosity To Mars’NASA Via Youtube: ‘Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity Rover) Mission Animation

From JPL Via Youtube: ‘Twelve Months In Two Minutes: Curiosity’s First Year On Mars’

—————–

From what I’ve learned as a layman:

-Curiosity isn’t necessarily looking for life, but it’s looking for the conditions that make life possible here on Earth with its 10 instruments, such as trying to determine the origins of the methane on Mars’s surface by being better able to analyze the kind of carbon (12 or 14) in the atmosphere to find its source.  It’s also much better able to look for amino acids (the building blocks of life on Earth) and better able to analyze the rock and crystal samples it picks up.  It’s got a cool laser. It’s about the size of a Mini-Cooper.

-Unlike Earth with its dynamic interior and tectonic plates, relatively strong magnetic field, thick and dynamic atmosphere etc., Mars is a bit like a time capsule.   With just over 50% the diameter of Earth, about 38% the gravity, and  less than 1% the atmosphere we’ll be able to get a much better picture of what happened during the formation of our solar system about 4 1/2 billion years ago as it’s much less disturbed.  The trip up the rock face in Gale Crater over the next few years is like a trip back through time.  What happened to Mars?  Did the Earth and Mars have common experiences?

Some more Mars facts.

No methane on Mars, so that rules out the certain kinds of microbial life hoped for.  There is water on the surface, in the soil. at about 2%, which is good for colonial prospects.  It probably had liquid water in the past, but that is thought to have been billions of years ago.  A lot of evidence points to ancient Mars and current Mars being very different.
———————
So, what about a more human problem that interests the libertarian-minded?
——————–
The problem is that over time, human organizations succumb to decay, bad incentives, and get weighed down by their own internal politics, increasing layers of bureaucracy, and regulations.  They can end-up no longer boldly and creatively solving the problems they were designed to solve, becoming risk-averse and losing their spirit of innovation and flexibility to free-up the top talent.  You can put more and more money in, but get less and less in return.  In fact, I’d argue along with many others that we’re in a period of American life where many other bureaucracies and government agencies may have also reached that point.  Such is my road-map.
———————
After the terrible Challenger explosion in 1986, Richard Feynman was included on an independent panel to find out what went wrong.  He discovered a profound difference between engineers’ and managements’ probability estimates for number of flights without failure.  One potential (and very important) reason that a system-ending failure can go unnoticed is the tendency of managers to believe top-down explanations.

It’s vintage Feynman, inconoclastic, penetrating and brilliant:

“for whatever purpose, be it for internal or external consumption, the management of NASA exaggerates the reliability of its product, to the point of fantasy.”

“For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.

Watch Robert Zubrin and other Mars Undergrounders pursue their quest despite NASA at times, but ultimately benefitting from collaboration with NASA engineers’ experience and insight, giving a boost to this deepest of human dreams:  the next frontier.  A colony on Mars.

We can do this, and it will be both like and unlike anything we’ve ever done before.

Via Youtube: Mars Curiosity Rover Report February 21st, 2013

—————————–

If you have an hour, the drilling team gives a presentation and a Q and A. They explain the significance of the first non-Earth drilling.

They’ve driven the Rover over to a flat area of rocks they call ‘John Klein,’ in a depressed region called ‘Yellowknife Bay,’ beyond Glenelg which was originally a target point from the landing site.  There’s a group of likely fine-grained (siltstone or mudstone?) rocks on the Martian ground.  They’ve photographed white veins in the rocks amongst other features, and used the ChemCam to determine the veins are probably a calcium sulfate, which forms on Earth usually due to water percolating through rocks, but they’re still doing analysis.

They’re now using the drill for the first time, doing a test drill of 2 centimeters, and then drilled 6 centimeters down into these flat ‘river’-looking rocks in John Klein.  The Rover scooped up the material and it’s gray in color,  as at the surface has been exposed to iron oxidation.

You can download these photos or view them a slideshow, and the Rover team keeps updating them with each new tool they use and each new location they move the Rover.  You can track the whole mission that way in photos with captions explaining what’s going on.

Here’s animation of how the drill works (follow that link for all video updates).

Could Mars have once harbored life?

Related On This Site:  Via The Mars Science Laboratory At NASA: ”Mount Sharp’ On Mars Links Geology’s Past And Future’Via Youtube: ‘The Challenges Of Getting To Mars: Selecting A Landing Site

NASA Via Youtube: December 21st, 2012 Mars Curiosity Rover Report

NASA Via Youtube: ‘The Martians: Launching Curiosity To Mars’NASA Via Youtube: ‘Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity Rover) Mission Animation

NASA Via Youtube: December 21st, 2012 Mars Curiosity Rover Report

——————

Just some links:

From a December 18th, 2012 mission status report:

‘NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Project is using Curiosity during a two-year prime mission to assess whether areas inside Gale Crater ever offered a habitable environment for microbes. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.’

-Unlike Earth with its dynamic interior and tectonic plates, relatively strong magnetic field, thick and dynamic atmosphere etc., Mars is a bit like a time capsule.   With just over 50% the diameter of Earth, about 38% the gravity, and  less than 1% the atmosphere we’ll be able to get a much better picture of what happened during the formation of our solar system about 4 1/2 billion years ago as it’s much less disturbed.  The trip up the rock face in Gale Crater over the next few years is like a trip back through time.  What happened to Mars?  Did the Earth and Mars have common experiences?

Some more Mars facts.

A December 4th, 2012 livestream overview of the mission.  Ashwin Vasavada’s talk starts about min 15:25, and is pretty easy to follow for non-scientists and lay people like myself:

——————

Related On This Site:  Via The Mars Science Laboratory At NASA: ”Mount Sharp’ On Mars Links Geology’s Past And Future’Via Youtube: ‘The Challenges Of Getting To Mars: Selecting A Landing Site

NASA Via Youtube: ‘The Martians: Launching Curiosity To Mars’NASA Via Youtube: ‘Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity Rover) Mission AnimationRepost: Richard Feynman at NASA

Via Youtube: November 15th, 2012 Mars Curiosity Rover Report

——————–

They’ve made a wind map of Gale Crater based on the data received, and there are possibly dustless dust-devils, or convective vortices that occur around noon of a Mars day passing over the Rover.  The Rover has stopped at a place called Rocknest, and from this article:

‘Scientists theorize that in Mars’ distant past its environment may have been quite different, with persistent water and a thicker atmosphere. NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, or MAVEN, mission will investigate possible losses from the upper atmosphere when it arrives at Mars in 2014.

With these initial sniffs of Martian atmosphere, SAM also made the most sensitive measurements ever to search for methane gas on Mars. Preliminary results reveal little to no methane. Methane is of interest as a simple precursor chemical for life. On Earth, it can be produced by either biological or non-biological processes.

Methane has been difficult to detect from Earth or the current generation of Mars orbiters because the gas exists on Mars only in traces, if at all.’

Still driving towards Mt. Sharp.  Some cool pics in slideshow format.  Link to NASA videos.

Addition:  Have they already found some data suggesting proof of sub-surface microbial life at Rocknest?  Stay tuned.

Related On This Site:  Via The Mars Science Laboratory At NASA: ”Mount Sharp’ On Mars Links Geology’s Past And Future’Via Youtube: ‘The Challenges Of Getting To Mars: Selecting A Landing Site

NASA Via Youtube: ‘The Martians: Launching Curiosity To Mars’NASA Via Youtube: ‘Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity Rover) Mission AnimationRepost: Richard Feynman at NASA

Add to Technorati Favorites

From NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory: ‘NASA Rover Finds Old Streambed On Martian Surface’

Full piece here.

The first real ‘direct’ observation of water:

“From the size of gravels it carried, we can interpret the water was moving about 3 feet per second, with a depth somewhere between ankle and hip deep,” said Curiosity science co-investigator William Dietrich of the University of California, Berkeley. “Plenty of papers have been written about channels on Mars with many different hypotheses about the flows in them. This is the first time we’re actually seeing water-transported gravel on Mars. This is a transition from speculation about the size of streambed material to direct observation of it.”

Apparently, it’s sedimentary conglomerate.  Rounded rocks smoothed by water and deposited in a cement like structure, which is now jutting above the surface as it lays in a large alluvial fan bed.  Comparison photo from Chile, back on Earth, of what appears to be a similar phenomenon.  The Rover is still headed towards Glenelg.

Video comparison on alluvial fans between Las Vegas and L.A. and on Mars, where the Rover sits:

—————————-

Thanks to everyone in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory living on Mars time!

Related On This Site:   Via The Mars Science Laboratory At NASA: ”Mount Sharp’ On Mars Links Geology’s Past And Future’Via Youtube: ‘The Challenges Of Getting To Mars: Selecting A Landing Site

NASA Via Youtube: ‘The Martians: Launching Curiosity To Mars’NASA Via Youtube: ‘Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity Rover) Mission AnimationRepost: Richard Feynman at NASA

Add to Technorati Favorites